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'Iron Duke'

There were 29 engines in the original Iron Duke Class; twenty-two were built by the GWR at Swindon, and seven were built by Rothwell and Company, Bolton-le-Moors.  Comparison with the earlier 'North Star' reveals the advancement in design, but retaining the same family resemblance.  Actually the first loco of the class was built as a 2-2-2 tender engine ('Great Western'), but broke it's front axle, so it was decided to rebuild it as a 4-2-2, and in this arrangement they were most successful.

These locos could be seen on many express passenger trains, their 8 feet diameter driving wheels giving a good turn of speed.  Perhaps the biggest critiscism of these locos was the lack of protection from the elements, and the subsequent enhanced 'Rover' class was fitted with a cab and roof.

None of the original class survived, and today's 'Iron Duke' has been built to exactly resemble a locomotive built to 1847 drawings.  The most obvious feature placing it in that era is the exposed wooden boiler lagging, as from 1848 onwards, sheet iron was added over the lagging, painted to match the tender.

The replica locomotive was built by RESCO in 1984 using modern materials and methods, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the G.W.R.  Some donor parts came from a scrapped Hunslet saddle tank, but that does not detract from the overall stature of the engine.

'Iron Duke' and the other engines of the class were the fastest engines in the world, regularly running at speeds of 50-60 mph while keeping schedules of slightly over 40 mph.  In order to "educate the public", on 11 May 1848 a speed and haulage trial was staged, with many of the leading scientist and engineers of Britain invited along for the ride.

A driver known in the popular press as "Mad Sandy" Almond drove the second engine of the Iron Duke Class, 'Great Britain' from Paddington to Didcot at an average speed of 67 mph.  His cruising speed of 75-77 mph was as fast as many express trains cared to travel.  Go forward 100 years, and any train averaging over 40 mph was still referred to as an "express".

Gauge: 7 ft ¼ in ;  Tractive Effort: 8100 lbs ;  Cylinders: 18 x 24 in ;  Boiler Pressure: 100 psi ;  Weight: 35 ½ tons ;  Grate Area: 21.7 ft² ;  Heating Area: 1944 ft² ;  Drive Wheel Diameter: 8 ft ;  Brakes: Screw (hand) fitted on the tender and/or one coach or Brake Van ;  Fuel: Coke, Coal after 1860 ; . Remarks: Built April 1847. Ceased Work October 1871. Rebuilt as Rover Class 'Iron Duke'.